A common piece of advice in business—particularly when it comes to having confidence in business—is to “fake it till you make it”. But is it good advice?
Most of the time, no… and that’s largely because people misinterpret what this advice actually means.
Faking “feeling” confident is one thing. But faking “genuine” confidence is quite another. And that’s because genuine confidence comes from having trust and security in your knowledge, skills and ability. So if you’re “faking it” by claiming to be an expert in something you’re not, you’re actually going to be doing the exact opposite to what you’re intending; you’re going to be destroying confidence, not creating it.
Why? Because YOU know you’re faking it—which makes you feel like a fraud, feeds your imposter syndrome, and ultimately makes you even less confident than you were to start with.
Plus, you can’t really fake knowledge, or skills, or competencies. You can’t fake being an expert.
Faking “ability” may result in a quick win, but it’s not a long-term strategy. Eventually, it will all fall apart, and that’s definitely not going to increase your confidence in business in long run; nor, for that matter is it going to do anything for your motivation in business.
So what’s a better strategy?
Simply being GOOD at what you do, and OWNING that.
KNOWING where your skills and abilities lie, KNOWING you are good, and KNOWING you can provide a valuable service to your clients.
Faking “feeling” confident in business vs. faking your skills
The true intention behind the “fake it till you make it” advice is about faking “feeling” confident, not faking the skills that create that confidence. Confidence comes from a belief in one’s own skills, goals, abilities, etc. and that belief (and thus, confidence) comes from KNOWLEDGE.
Ask a room full of children what 1+1 is and they will all shout out the answer. Ask those same children what 276 + 353 is and far fewer will be likely to do so, because they don’t immediately and automatically “just know”.
Confidence to stand up and speak out is instinctively just there when we know things. Genuine knowledge automatically leads to genuine confidence.
Of course, there will always be the child with crippling shyness that is too nervous to shout out the answer to that first easy question—despite the fact that they know the answer. Just as there will always be those who shout out an answer not caring if they’re wrong. But the majority of us sit in the middle somewhere—outwardly confident when we’re secure in our knowledge, and less so when we’re not.
“Fake it till you make it” is in fact good advice for that shy kid, and this represents the true intent of this piece of advice.
It’s great advice for changing “behaviours”. You KNOW the answer is 2, so you need to get better at shouting it out. You need to fake “feeling” confident enough to shout it out; fake “enjoying” shouting out the answer; fake “wanting” to shout out the answer; and with time, the more you do it—despite it feeling awkward and unnatural—you will gradually find it less scary, less embarrassing, less uncomfortable. Because you know the answer, you’re getting it right, and no-one is laughing at you, or telling you off.
So “fake it till you make it”works when you need to fake feeling confident, when you DO have the knowledge, or the ability, and you just hate having to “get out there” and tell people about that ability.
But, you cannot fake knowing the answer.
The kid that’s not scared of getting the answer wrong can shout out a wrong answer, and no harm done. But if they keep shouting wrong answers, lesson after lesson, one number after the next, wrong every time, it will become clear that this kid not only doesn’t know, but doesn’t care; he isn’t really trying, he just wants to be seen, to be noticed, but doesn’t want to put the work in to actually get it right or do it properly, which means—eventually—he’ll no longer be taken seriously.
So faking “feeling” confident is very different to “faking knowing the answer”—and the latter is how many people interpret this advice, and how they ultimately destroy not only their own confidence in their business, but other people’s confidence in them, too.
Why is confidence in business important?
Confidence in business is, to put it simply, necessary in order to succeed. A lack of confidence leads to holding back, shyness, inaction, undercharging (undervaluing yourself) and missed opportunities.
And whilst “fake it till you make it” can help you fake feeling confident when you know that you do have the skills and knowledge, genuine confidence cannot be faked.
So, how to you build genuine confidence?
The word confidence comes from the Latin “con” (with) + “fidere” (to trust). It means to TRUST; to be trusted.
Trusting in yourself, in your skills, abilities, knowledge, competencies = having confidence in yourself.
Clients’ trusting in you, in your skills, abilities, knowledge, results, reliability, value = their confidence in you, which, happily, further encourages your own confidence in yourself.
So it all comes down to honesty. Honesty with yourself, and honesty with your clients.
Misinterpreting that “fake it” advice, and faking skills, knowledge and expertise is NOT what it’s about. That is, to put it bluntly, just lying. Which unsurprisingly comes at a price.
You risk getting “found out”. You risk your reputation, and your integrity.
And you risk adding a whole lot of stress to your life from the pressure of having to produce something you’re not really capable of. Taking on clients in industries you know nothing about, or jobs that require skills that you don’t have. The faking it “Yes, I can do that!” may get you the contract, but it doesn’t help you fulfil it.
How to improve your confidence in business
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be the BEST to be confident. You just have to be good.
You never would have started a business in something you know nothing at all about, or that you are absolutely no good at. Which means you do already have some level of skill, of knowledge, of expertise—and that is where you start.
To be in it for the long term, all you need to be is good at what you do. Focus on your knowledge. Focus on knowing what you are good at. It’s not about arrogance, it’s just about internal honesty. It’s about YOUR truth. Focus on owning your truth.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” And he was right.
YOU know what you’re capable of, and whatever that is, it is enough to offer a perfect service—a genuine, skilled, reliable, honest service—to your clients.
Could you learn more? Could you be better? Yes. So the sky is your limit, because whilst you could be better, you can also STILL BE GOOD RIGHT NOW.
With confidence (i.e. with TRUST) in yourself, and in your knowledge, you KNOW you can help prospective clients. And they can FEEL that. They can SENSE your truth.
If you want to play the “fake it” game, it’ll be short-lived and most likely pretty stressful. But if you play the long game—knowing your truth, and focusing on what you can do for your clients (and being good at that)—you create certainty. And that certainty leads to your confidence in business. Genuine confidence. Your confidence in yourself, and your clients’ confidence in you.
When you believe in yourself you are more likely to take action—to stand up and seize the moment, and to persevere.
So as you continue to grow, to build upon your skills and your knowledge, as you continue to build your business, you become more and more secure in that knowledge, you know more and more what you are capable of—you become more and more confident in business.
And that confidence means you become more and more attractive, more magnetic.
Meaning your business will thrive.
And it will thrive with integrity.